Check out the irony, I came across this right after posting my last blog about nearing the end of beginning..
We all knew moving back was not going to be the easiest thing for me to get around – but I think I have come to accept it in stages, one after the other and as it is only a few weeks away now I can clearly see how this is going to pan out and I am starting to realise what makes this stage such a scary one.
There’s two fears kicking in here. First, is the fear that almost everyone at this stage has – which is to be growing up to damn fast with time just flying by. For most people: they finish university, get a job, get promoted …. And it just goes on – there’s not one day when you stop and tell yourself, so today xyz phase of your life has come to an end. For me this is not going to be the case. For me the day I sit in that plane with my single ticket, I know this journey would have come an end, I know this huge chunk and lot of achievements would have come to their completion. Which is an amazing yet a scary thought. It is amazing to know I have completed my Masters and Bachelors, that too with distinctions, which has opened to many doors for me. I have met so many amazing people, gone to so many amazing places and experienced so much. But it is scary to think that the phase of studying abroad is now coming to an end and it’s time to get a job, settle down and move on.
Second is obviously, change is never easy to accept and it kills to think what the future holds, in every phase of uncertainty.
I can only hope that what’s ahead is as amazing as what’s gone by and I need to make the most of every second while I am here. May be we should live like tourists all our lives, so we’d enjoy our lives a whole lot more, take more chances and risks, speak our hearts and love a little more.
Norway is a unique country and I think you can spend ages exploring it and you’d still have something you haven’t yet seen. So, obviously a weekend wasn’t enough to see all that Norway has to offer, but we did well in exploring everything that Oslo alone had to offer. It is a unique country in the sense that it has islands, hills, greenery, urban settling, beaches and lakes all at the same time, hence why there is always something to see. While I was not my own tour guide this trip, here is what we managed to experience:
Holmenkollen Skii Jump
They say if you tell someone you went to Oslo and didn’t see the Holmenkollen, they won’t believe you ever came here. It is very representation of what Oslo and its culture is like. It is a colossal ski jump where tournaments are held, and Norwegians love winter sports, thanks to the temperatures in Norway. The view from here is amazing too!
Cruise from Aker Brygge
While in Oslo, you need to explore the beaut lake Fjord and one of the best ways to do it is to take the City Cruise which takes about 40 minutes to take you to and from a nearby island giving you a good view of the city and other islands/ peninsula. The cruise we took left from the port in Aker Brygge, a lovely street with shops, cafes and restaurants.
Sightseeing: Royal Palace – Slott, Parliament, Karl Johan Gate, Opera House, Nobel Peace Prize Museum
Oslo has a very rich history and standing in the world peace and equality. This is the reason why you would find people to be very kind and nice. Some of the landmarks and events which make Norway what it is can be witnessed in the Royal Palace, Parliament and Nobel Peace Prize Museum. Opera House needs no explanation of any sort, except for the fact that it was one of the most amazing pieces of architecture I have ever seen, I wish I had enough time to actually watch a theatrical play in it too but the next time I visit, I will definitely have that on my list.
Frogner is the most unique park I have ever been too. While it has the usual green patch, flowers, fountains and lakes – it also has a story behind the sculptures throughout the park. They represent the different phases and events in life of a person from birthday to death, it is interesting how it has been expressed in these sculptures.
Good to Know
Oslo has cosy and fancy cafes in most of its central shopping streets and around the tourist attractions. Among these, Pascal café is one of the most famous and posh ones, because of not only its amazing French pastries and coffee, but also because this has become quite an attraction since Bill Clinton came here. Otherwise food and drink in Norway is a treat, especially for those who love sea food.
Norwegian is not the easiest language to understand or speak, but the good thing is that most people speak English too.
Switzerland is a stunning country, known for its landscapes and natural treasures – but while in Zurich, you also realise that it is one of the classiest cities of the world. Its fine dining, fine chocolates, luxurious cruises, classy people, high-end shopping and beautiful lakes stood out the most to me. So, holidays in Zurich are obviously not the most budget friendly ones, however it is worth every penny you spend. I only had a day to spend in this beaut city, but I did well for exploring what it has to offer, and here’s a quick look into it:
Shop at Bahnofstrasse
Bahnofstrasse is the main shopping street in Zurich located right infront of the main HB Train Station. The street is one of a kind because you will only see the world’s most high end brands, fine chocolates, watches, banks and cafes, which I believe is very representative of what the city stands for.
Coffee & chocolates at Sprungli
Sprungli is a café and chocolate confectioner. They have two branches on the Bahnofstrasse. Wait until you get to the end of the street for the branch where you can sit and enjoy their delicacies in the café. Here you can also buy chocolate in the ground floor or go upstairs to the seating area. Coffee’s presentation and taste is on point! Sit by the glass windows to appreciate the view of the street while you eat and drink.
Cruise from Burklinplatz to Zurichorn
If you walk to the end of Bahnofstrasse, it will take you to the Burklinplatz Port where all the cruises have their pick and drop points for Lake Zurich. The views of Lake Zurich and Albis & Zimmerberg Hills from here are breath taking. There is many different tours you can opt for on the cruises, the shortest one being 1.5 hours long and you would need to buy a separate ticket for that. However, I was not too fussed about a lengthy cruise ride, so I just took the 10 minutes cruise journey to Zurichon (first stop), whose fares were included in my return train ticket from the airport. It is a nice, short cruise ride with beautiful views of the city, hills and the lake. I found it amazing that there were people swimming in the lake in the same area as the cruises and boats. So, if you have the right weather and timing, swimming in the lake might be a good idea.
Walk from Zurichorn to Grossmunster
I always walk cities that I visit as it allows you to engage with the locals and experience the city to the fullest. From Zurichon Port, I walked all the way back to the city to Grossmunster Church. The walk is stunning as you get views of the lake, hills and water falls as you walk along the lake in the park.
View from the Grossmunster
Grossmunster is located fifteen minutes’ walk from the HB Train Station in the city. It is a beautiful church, which has a staircase (a rather small one) taking you to its top to witness some amazing views of the city, Limmat River, Lake Zurich and the hills. Its location is perfect as it gives you the bird’s eye view of the whole of Zurich.
Take Poly-Bahn Funicular to the University
Sadly, while I was in Zurich the funicular transport, which Switzerland is famous for, was undergoing repairs but they say if you take the funicular up to the university, the views are breath taking and the journey must be an experience in itself. I hope to experience it myself if and when I am back in the Switzerland.
Good to know
The dining in Zurich is made very easy with its many cafes and restaurants in all major areas across the city. You can find excellent food from all different cuisines of the world among these restaurants. However, these restaurants like other things in the city are not cheap.
Your return train ticket from airport to HB Train Station allows you access to most of the public transport in the city including trams, buses, funicular and the cruises (unless you take a route far out from the centre of the city). So, in many cases you might only need to get a return train ticket from the airport to get around the city, like I did.
So, my Euro trip continues as I return from my destination # 2. Having spent a fabulous day exploring Amsterdam I can say that it is the cutest city of Europe. it is an absurd way to describe a city but this explains best how I truly feel about it. It is an urban and modern city, yet canals/ bicycles and (amazing) people give it a very warm, welcoming and ‘close’ vibe, which is unlike most other urban cities.
People in Amsterdam are generally very happy, which translates into them being helpful and nice. They are really nice to talk to! Ironically I was reading a book about importance of happiness in societies inspired by Dalai Lama at the time, which said happy people make better citizens and its interesting that in a city where is it legal to do anything (almost) people choose to be so nice and kind.
Unlike my last trip to Italy in which we finished sightseeing in Rome in a day and we headed to Ostia the other day (we go well planned), this wasn’t the case in Amsterdam at all. I still feel like there’s so many other things I would want to do, so there’s probably a next time for Amsterdam (which is funny, because when I told the immigration officer I was there only for a day, he complained and said I had to come back at the end of my Euro trip as one day is just not enough, and now I agree!).
So, here’s a few things to see, experience and enjoy in Amsterdam:
Walk/ Bike the City: Dam Square, Jordaan, Prinsengracht
The city has a network of well managed public transport, but you need to either walk to bike the city so that you can view the city cafes, little shops, talk to the locals and walk along the beautiful canals. I was not too comfortable with the left hand drive so I choose to not ride a bike, but walking was alright too. You need to be prepared to do lots of it though, if you wish to see major landmarks. You can take one of the walking tours or just make one of your own. I made one of my own. I walked from Centraal Station to Ann Frank Museum and then Jordaan which is a beautiful neighbourhood. This gave me a chance to see the beautiful canals, speak to some people and enjoy some food at the canal side cafes in the city. Some people might also fancy going to the Red Light District, which is very close to the Centraal Station, however it wasn’t something I was too fascinated about, so I stuck to everything else.
This is a square with art galleries, museums and the good old ‘IAMSTERDAM’. If you have enough time you should explore one of the museums, if not the customary photo is a must. There’s plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops nearby as well, so you can eat and drink here too.
Floating Flower Market
Blowmenmart is the world’s only floating flower market and the largest flower market. It is massive as one can imagine and one could buy lots of interesting souvenirs from here like wooden carved tulips, pouches, cheese, Stroopwafles etc. Be careful though, some of the items you buy here like the bulbs are not allowed through the security at the airport. Although I enjoyed my time in the flower market I was a little disappointed by the lack of fresh flowers, as I was expecting to be mesmerised by the smell and buy a bunch of fresh tulips, either it wasn’t the right weather for tulips or that didn’t happen for me.
Amsterdam EYE & Ferry Ride
Not many tourists go the North of Amsterdam where you can reach by a brief ferry ride. There they have the Amsterdam Eye, a magnificent piece of architecture and a great place to relax and cool off after a day of walking around the city. Many a times you can also go to art exhibitions here and if you have enough time, might also watch a movie at the cinema here.
While I absolutely loved going to the places that I did, I wish I had enough time to explore the museums, pay visit to the Maritime museum and indulge myself extensively in the local cuisines.
Happy Travelling Folks!
I am super excited (yet knackered) to be blogging about my trip to Rome, because with this first one, my Euro trip officially and finally begins.
So… Rome is no doubt the cultural and historic beacon of Europe. I doubt there is any other city in Europe with that many historic treasures but that’s not all there is to Rome and on my trip I discovered things many don’t even know exist in Rome. We spent two days and thankfully they were enough to fit everything in (without having to rush). So, here are the things you must see and do when in Rome:
Sightseeing: Colosseum, Vatican City, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Vittoriano, Palentine Hill
Sightseeing is going to be a major chunk of your trip to Rome. The sights are beautiful, have lots of history to learn about and most of them are colossal, as the name suggests. The heat can be excruciating in summer time which means you would need lots of breaks, especially as most of the sightseeing can only be done by foot, walking from one piazza to the other. One thing we absolutely loved about Rome was that there is water fountains everywhere. The water is clean, safe to drink and chilled, so staying hydrated is not a problem.
Sightseeing at Night
While major attractions are crowded and hustling in the day, the city tells a completely different story in the night time, once it is dark. It is more peaceful, the lighting is absolutely stunning, you can see the horse carts going by, traffic is much quieter and weather is mild. Also, there are documentaries and shows about the Roman history that are played in open air in the night. We did not know about them before we actually went out in the evening and saw one of them being played on one of the old buildings opposite the Vittoriano (five minutes’ walk from Colosseum) on a projector. If you are tired from a day of sightseeing; sitting and relaxing here is could be a good idea.
Unwind at Trastevere
An Italian friend recommended I go to Trastevere, and thank God I did because it was one of our favourite places in Rome, especially as we were exhausted from walking and sightseeing in the sun. Trastevere means riverside and it is just what it says. While there are many bridges you can go to, with lots of different views we went to the Ponte Fabricio as it seemed like the most convenient one to reach from the Trastevere Metro station, by taking the Tram 08 in the right direction (about ten minutes). It is absolutely beautiful, you can walk down the stairs and sit by the water. Also, there are shops and restaurants by the river side where you can relax and have a drink or snacks. We went to a Mexican restaurant where the ambience was on point and so was the food and service.
Food: Gelato, Pizzas, Pasta
If you’re a foodie, you’re in for a treat. The food here is amazing. And ofcourse if you are going to come to Italy you need to have their pizzas, pastas and gelato. The ice cream/ gelato is fresh, so much so that you can even feel the fruit in it. The ones we got were a little overpriced though, costing us 5 Euros for a medium sized portion (I am guessing we got ripped off, but I am not quite sure of what is reasonable in Rome, but then again we got in from right next to the Trevi Fountain). Secondly, almost every café or restaurant is going to serve pizzas and pasta, out of which the ones which are made fresh are the best ones but relatively more expensive. They also have pizzas where you can buy according to weight. The food is not the cheapest. We paid on average 10 Euros for a complete meal but the best meal we had was in Ostia in a family owned small café, which only cost us 5 Euros. So, I am guessing the cafes and restaurants in Central Rome have higher prices.
Ostia/ Fregene Beach
Many people don’t know but there are lovely beaches not very far from the centre of Rome and getting there is not difficult at all. I am a freak for beaches and a holiday is not complete for me unless I go to one, so I had to find a beach near Rome. Our initial plan was to go to Fregene, Singita Beach Club, however we found out that it is much longer to get there as compared to Ostia. You would probably need to go to the Fumicino Airport and take the Cotral Line Bus from there to Fregene (Final stop Cornelia). On the other hand, Ostia’s beaches are only a metro ride away to Stella Polare and the quality of beaches is more or less the same. There are private clubs on the beach, which you probably cannot enter but there is another public entrance too along the beach where you need to pay for entrance, sunbeds, umbrellas, swimming pool or just sit along the beach. Heading to one of these beaches is a perfect way to say good-bye to Rome, as this would allow you to recover from days of walking, sightseeing and hustle bustle in the city.
Other Tips & Warnings
This is probably the most hands on part of my blog and should not be a surprise to anyone who has put any research into visiting Rome. Pickpocketers target tourists, so be careful with your belongings, having said that the situation is not as bad as it sounds. We did not have anything misplaced or stolen in the whole trip, but we were careful to not leave our belongings out of our sight. The real challenge is that salesmen near the tourist attractions, people dressed as gladiators etc will trick you into spending money. They take pictures with you and ask you to pay 10 Euros later on. Similar, they would say something in 5 Euros and once you have it in the bag they could demand 10 Euros for it. Also, the street art shows will put you on the spot and tell you to give them money if you take their picture. So, my advice is to not stop for anyone who approaches you randomly. Also, language is a problem. While most shopkeepers, train ticket officers and some locals do speak English, I would recommend knowing some basic words or Italian atleast.
Happy traveling folks!
I always thought to myself that when great things happen in life, there is only one way to react to it. To do more, work harder, give more back.. But then there are moments in life when that is no longer sufficient. And words cannot describe how lucky I feel to be able to feel that way, may be just now, may be for a moment, but I am eternally grateful.
And I found this feeling not in but amidst of my milestones, not on an occasion but only on a walk back from home when a kind gesture from shopkeeper just made me stop and realise how life has showered me with blessings so much lately. Everything I was worried about is starting to fall in place, things I was sceptical about are starting to make sense, things I wanted to do are finally working out and I am among people who are ever so kind.
But moments of realisation like this bring a weird sense of helplessness, there is not even the urge to want to give back and work harder (but I shall try), because you can never ever do so much that would be enough and then all you can do is thank and thank and thank. I am so grateful!